In Conversation with Stephanie Feldman, author of Saturnalia (In-Person)
Wed, December 14, 2022
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Stephanie Feldman’s novel Saturnalia takes place during a citywide winter solstice celebration in Philadelphia on the brink of climate collapse. The novel draws inspiration from lore and customs of the winter solstice, Philadelphia’s history, the old English Christmas ghost story tradition, and even Delancey Street itself!
The Saturnalia carnival marks three years since Nina walked away from Philadelphia’s elite Saturn Club—with its genteel debauchery, arcane pecking order, and winking interest in alchemy and the occult. In doing so, she abandoned her closest friends and her chance to climb the social ladder. Since then, she’s eked out a living by telling fortunes with her Saturn Club tarot deck, a solemn initiation gift that Nina always considered a gag, but has turned out to be more useful than she could have ever imagined.
For most, the solstice festival—an American holiday like Thanksgiving or Halloween—is an opportunity for the beleaguered people to forget their troubles, like extreme weather, a collapsing economy, and the explosion of mosquito-borne illness. For Nina, Saturnalia is simply a cruel reminder of the night that changed everything for her. But when she gets a chance call from Max, one of the Saturn Club’s best-connected members and her last remaining friend, the favor he asks will plunge her back into the Club’s wild masquerade, on a mysterious errand she cannot say no to.
Tonight, Nina will put on a dress of blackest black and attend the biggest party of the year. Before it’s over, she will discover secret societies battling for power in an increasingly precarious world and become custodian of a horrifying secret–and the target of a mysterious hunter. As Nina runs across an alternate Philadelphia balanced between celebration and catastrophe, through parades, worship houses, museums, hidden mansions, and the place she once called home, she’s forced to confront her past in order to take charge of her own—and perhaps everyone’s—future.